Christian Sports, Pagan Beliefs

July 13, 2009

In many athletic programs…egalitarianism is rampant.  “Winning and losing are not important.  What matters is that every child comes out of the game feeling good about himself.”  What should distress us all is that this kind of paganism is taken by many Christians as the “spiritual” and “nonthreatening” approach.  It is quite true that a competitor should not care about winning more than he cares about glorifying God.  But although it may sound crass, the point of playing a game is to win it — and this is how young men should be trained to glorify God.  Winning isn’t everything, but it is the point of the particular activity.

(Doug Wilson, Future Men, 133)

Personal Note: Churches need to rethink the well-intentioned, admirably executed, but fundamentally misguided philosophy of Upward sports.

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4 Responses to “Christian Sports, Pagan Beliefs”

  1. Ron Durham Says:

    Two observations:
    1. Paul’s use of the race analogy in I Corinthians 9 would suggest to me that winning is not a given nor should it be seen as such, or Paul would not have used that as an analogy. I ought to run as to win, something Upward Sports seems to miss.
    2. I went out to http://www.upward.org (something I suggest those who are interested to know do) and clicked on and read the “values/mission” link, and out of the four values listed the first three seem to be on fairly solid biblical ground except for the last one which I’ll list here:

    “The Priority of Children
    We believe that Every Child Is A Winner.
    Matthew 18:14 – In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.”

    Like you David I believe the goals of Upward Sports are well intentioned, but this looks like poor interpretation to me. Nevertheless, while healthy competition is no enemy of the gospel, a mindset that suggests winning is the only value in view is also biblically flawed. When my failure to accept my occasional inevitable failure (someone always wins, which means that someone always loses:-) with the greater good of my witness for Christ in view is sacrificed, God is most definitely not glorified. I have personally played on church sports teams, and the reason I quit playing was professing Christians slinging bats and losing their tempers and even coming to blows over what I had understood was a game. I lost a lot of respect for those folks because of their ungodly behavior on the field, and I think scripture would give me good reason to do so (self-control comes to mind). I should do my best to win but always keep in mind that the gospel is ALWAYS either in view or absent in my life, whether playing sports, driving down the highway, or a host of other things I could list. Don’t read me wrong David; I believe we are both on the same page here. I’m no enemy of balanced competition, so long as it doesn’t turn malicious. Paul never seems to question the validity of honest winning; he just places a higher value on the gospel. I hope Doug Wilson recognizes this as well; he should.

  2. Ron Durham Says:

    A more thoughtful reread tells me Doug actually makes that very obervation as well, so my mistake.

  3. David Says:

    Thanks for commenting, Ron. I’m glad you spotted Wilson’s agreement in his quote. The entire chapter, “Fighting, Sports, and Competition,” is thought-provoking. I’m glad he was bold enough to take on the so-called “spiritual…nonthreatening” approach to sports.


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